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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Runic Odes from the Norse Tongue

ODE III.

Dialogue at the Tomb of Argantyr


HERVOR repairs to the tomb of her Father ARGANTYR, at the dead of night,
and invokes his spirit to deliver up the magical sword, TRIFINGUS, which was buried with him.

HERVOR.

Thy daughter calls: Argantyr, break
The bonds of death; me calls, awake:
Reach me forth the temper'd blade
Beneath thy marble pillow laid,
Which once a scepter'd warrior bore,
Forg'd by dwarfs in years of yore.
Where are the sons of Angrim fled ?
Mingled with the valiant dead.
From under twisted roots of oak
Blasted by the thunder's stroke,
Arise, arise, ye men of blood,
Ye who prepared the vulture's food;
Give me the sword and studded belt,
Armies whole their force have felt;
Or grant my pray'r, or mould'ring rot,
Your name your deeds alike forgot:
Argantyr, rouse thee from thy rest;
Hear, and grant thy child's request.

ARGANTYR.

Daughter, I hear the magic found
That wakes the tenants of the ground:
Why callst thou thus ? What dire intent
Is within thy bosom pent ?
No friendly hand, no parent, gave
My bones to rest in hallow'd grave;
To me no sacred rite was paid;
Here by barbaric hands convey'd,
In this mansion cold, forlorn,
My gloomy ghost shall ever mourn.
Think not by unceasing pray'r
Hence the charmed sword to bear;
For know, above in realms of light,
Trifingus is another's right.

HERVOR.

Ha ! my sire, what words accurst
Have from the lip of falsehood burst?
Thou knowst with thee in darkness laid
Sleeps the consecrated blade :
Yield it, 'tis th' appointed hour,
Or dread avenging Odin's pow'r.

ARGANTYR.

With awe my words prophetic hear;
Hervor, 'tis for thee I fear:
The fates have seal'd thy offspring's doom;
Trifingus brings them to the tomb.

HERVOR.

Talk not to me of future times;
I swear, by force of magic rhymes,
Repose the dead shall know no more,
Till thou the gifted sword restore.

ARGANTYR.

Maid, thy warlike foul I bless,
Who rov'st by night in armed dress,
With spell-wrought helmet iron proof,
And garments wove in mystic woof;
Who dar'st in thrilling accents call
The dead from their sepulchral hall.

HERVOR.

No more this idle converse hold;
Once I thought thy spirit bold:
Give me forth the radiant brand;
Hear, and grant my just demand.
Know, my sire, th' appointed hour,
And dread avenging Odin's pow'r.

ARGANTYR.

Here within the fated sheath
Hialmar's ruin lies beneath,
Wrapt in its own terrific flame:
What maid but trembles at the name?

HERVOR.

I tremble not-- the flame, though bright,
Is but ineffectual light,
That plays around the buried corse
With meteor glare devoid of force:
I'll grasp the sword in terror drest,
And give thy gloomy spirit rest.

ARGANTYR.

Rash virgin, to thy pray'r I yield :
Lo TRIFINGUS stands reveal'd!
Blazing like the noon-day sun.--

HERVOR.

King of men, 'tis nobly done:
This blade with rapt'rous joy I own
A greater gift than Norway's throne.

ARGANTYR.

Fond exulting daughter, know
These transports work thee lasting woe;
By the dread sword ('tis thus decreed)
Thy sons, e'en Hydreks' self, shall bleed.

HERVOR.

I must to my ships repair;
Battle is the warrior's care:
If in the purple fount of life
They steep the steel in mortal strife,
By no ignoble stroke they fall,
And link with joy to Odin's hall.

ARGANTYR.

Hie thee hence from death's domain,
With rev'rence keep Hialmar's bane;
Touch but the blade, a warrior dies,
There quick-speeding poison lies;
Thou art of a race divine,
Take the gift the gods assign.

HERVOR.

Never shall Trifingus sleep,
But move with desolating sweep;
Never fear invade my breast,
Nor dying sons my peace molest;
If by Trifingus' stroke they fall,
They sink with joy to Odin's hall.

ARGANTYR.

Hark, e'en now with fallen moan
Victims twelve beneath thee groan:
Armed in paternal might
Go forth, my child, and dare the fight;
Angrim's portion'd wealth is thine;
Take the gift the gods assign.

HERVOR.

Now, in the silence of the tomb,
Dwell undisturb'd till final doom:
I must tread my destin'd road,
And speed me from this drear abode;
For here, as still my steps I turn,
Flaky fires around me burn.

Thomas James Mathias (1754?-1835)
 

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